Family of boy who drowned in school pool seeks answers

The family of a 12-year-old boy who died after a swimming lesson in a St. Louis Park Middle School swimming pool is questioning whether he was properly supervised.

Abdullahi Charif died of an accidental drowning, the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office has determined.

A teacher found the boy in the pool Thursday morning at the end of a swimming lesson. He died early Saturday at Children's Hospital in St. Paul.

The boy's father, Ali Warsame, said family members buried his son over the weekend. Warsame said their grief has been compounded by his son's incomprehensible death.

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"It is an impossible, sad day for us, particularly because we do not understand what happened to cause his death," Warsame said.

"We love our country, and I have faith in its system of justice. But for that system to work, and for us to be able to move on with our lives, we have to know what happened to my son in the school."

Fred Pritzker, an attorney representing the family, is questioning whether the 12-year-old, who did not know how to swim, was properly supervised in the gym class. There were as many as 30 seventh-graders in the class, he said.

"This is an incident that should have never occurred," he said. "This child should not have died in a swimming class in a public school, period."

The family is urging anyone with information on what happened to call St. Louis Park Police.

Officials with the St. Louis Park Public Schools also are conducting their own investigation. The teacher who supervised the class is on paid administrative leave.

In a statement, Superintendent Rob Metz said the school pool will remain closed during the investigation. They said the district has set up a fund for the family at Citizens Independent Bank in St. Louis Park.

"The St. Louis Park Public Schools, and the entire community, continue to mourn the passing of 7th grader Abdullahi Charif," the statement said. "Counselors remain on staff for students, faculty and staff, and the health and safety of our students continues to be a top priority for all of us at St. Louis Park Public Schools."

This isn't the first time the St. Louis Park school district has dealt with a student death. Just last May, two St. Louis Park fourth graders were killed in a landslide while on a field trip to a St. Paul riverfront park.